Four girls (Lisa Dennehy, Louise James, Chloe MacDonnell and I) sitting in an office in the Square in the centre of Tralee in 2008, and, yes, we are talking about fashion. All normal so far. At the time we were co-ordinating the PR and event management for Ladies Day at a number of high profile race meetings, and we collectively noted that women attending the races were now beginning to wear both headpieces and womenswear - all made by Irish designers - many from Kerry. This seems so normal now, but at the time, it was a change from previous trends, when it was mostly either the imaginative use of high street brands or high end design labels. Maybe it was the coffee, or heat stroke caused by the summer sun as it shone through an un-air-conditioned office, but right there and then, we thought why doesn't Kerry have a fashion week to celebrate emerging design talents?
Indeed. Within a week we had contacted Melanie Morris, then Editor of Image Magazine, and were all sitting in her office in Dun Laoghaire talking about Kerry Fashion Weekend and the need to celebrate so much emerging talent on one platform. Melanie said YES. We pushed GO. Kerry Fashion Weekend was officially launched in late 2008 at a reception in the Aghadoe Heights Hotel, Killarney, and the first series of shows, workshops and the inaugural awards in Dingle, Tralee and Killarney took place in April 2009.
I am not going to lie - from the initial conception to the birth, the world changed. However we proceeded as planned and for me personally the Show in Dingle featuring Eco creations by students of the London College of Fashion (produced by Ray Stack Productions - our first of many times working together) and the Awards in the Aghadoe Heights Hotel were well received.
Recession took its toll and fashion was low on the agenda. However Lisa Dennehy kept the faith and talked us into doing Year 2 (and Year 3 if I recall correctly!). Kerry Fashion Weekend morphed and moulded itself into the fiscal times, with a reduced programme (but none the less engaging and fashionable).
In 2012, brand designer, Paul Ruane, became involved as a joint Director of Kerry Fashion Week. The event was now attracting national entries and attention, so it was time to position it firmly on a national stage. KFW was born and the event continued to gather traction and interest from the fashion community nationally. Lancome Paris were announced as official make up and beauty partners and the Sean Taaffe Group became hair sponsors. Both relationships continue today.
Images below are a very small selection from KFW events from 2009 - 2015
Today, KFW is firmly established as Ireland's premier fashion industry event. We were delighted to welcome Dunnes Stores on board in 2016 as our official associate sponsor and also Absolut, Great Lengths, Wazp, and Kellihers Toyota. Win, lose or draw at the Awards - the professionally produced platform and collateral provided by KFW continues to launch careers, and decide what we are wearing tomorrow.
The success of KFW - lies with the people who work in it and the people who support it - from sponsors, media, industry and guests. Lisa Dennehy, Zoe O Connor, Barry Murphy & Ray Stack were all there from Year One (so we are all telephatic now) and many others have joined the team - including Noel Ryan, Front of House Manager, super organised, endless energy and a rock of positive thinking; presenter Orlagh Winters, Liz Galwey, Model & Production assistant, photographer, Pawel Nowak, videographer, Dan Devane, Ray Stack's team - James Fitzgerald, Alan Johnson, Arron Williams, Padraig Foran. Noel's team, Helen O Flaherty, Jennifer Boyle and Colette Ryan, stylist Laura McSweeny, and all the many interns who run, pack, sort, number, and smile for 12 hours a day including Andrea, Ellie, Jade, Karen, Rebecca, Alyson and Caitriona.
Melanie Morris, Editor in Chief, Image Publications, who has chaired the judging panel for 8 years and Bairbre Power, Fashion Editor of the Irish Independent, who is a judge for many years are both an incredible support to us (and to the Irish fashion industry). Every year the judging panel features top professionals from the fashion world, who give their time and expertise including over the years, Liadan Hynes, Liz Greehy, Louise Kennedy, Joanne Hynes, Aisling Farinella, Don O Neill, Ingrid Hoey, Helen Steele, Eilis Boyle, Lisa Ryan and this year Carolyn Donnelly (creative director of Dunnes Stores) and Helen Cody, award winning womenswear designer.
The beautiful and hard working models at Upfront Model Management, especially Grace Madden, Aoife Healy and Fiona Griffin who were there from very early days. Thanks to Viv and Emer from Lockdown Models in Cork and in Distinct Model Management in Dublin.
Special shout out to loyal supporters - who have been the FROW since 2009 Olivia, Jill, Joann, Claire, Elaine, Mary, Eileen, Carol, - and most of all, my wonderful, beautiful and glamorous MOTHER Anne and her very fashionable two sisters, Rosemary and Pauline.
Lastly, when you can, support Irish Designers, independent retailers and boutiques.
I can now return to my normal life of Events and PR projects . Oh and yes ... a lot more sleep!
Thanks to everyone who supported KFW 16 - until next year.
(For all the information on KFW, visit the website, www.kerryfashionweek.com)
Images here are all from KFW 16 some behind the scenes and some runway. The really soft ones are taken on my i-phone! For full gallery visit KFW FB page. (Photography credits - Emily Quinn, Don MacMonagle, Barry Murphy & Pawel Nowak)
KFW 2016 - images by Emily Quinn, Barry Murphy, Pawel Nowak and Don MacMonagle.